How to Replace a Jean or Pant Zipper

You know it’s time to replace a zipper when the teeth are missing or the zipper tab has pulled away from the teeth, like this one:

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It’s almost impossible to put the tab back on the track.

(But if the tab has broken off and the zipper is still intact, you can always just replace the tab. You can find replacements at most large fabric stores or online.)

This method works on jeans, slacks and skirts.

If you want to know how to replace a jacket zipper, see this post.

Before you begin, measure the length of the existing zipper.

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As you can see, I’ll need at least a 6 ” zipper for this pair of slacks. If you only have a longer zipper, go ahead and use it. Later, I will show you what to do with a zipper that is longer than the measured area.

If you can, ask your customer to measure the zipper, buy the one they like and bring it with them to the first appointment. I don’t like to have inventory of these on hand because I never know what size or color the customer would like, or if their first choice is even available. It’s much easier and less stressful to have them buy the one they’d like. That saves you time and hassle and you’ll have the one they like.

The zipper color does not have to match the fabric since it won’t be seen, once the garment is worn.

Once you have your zipper on hand, take it out of the package and set it aside.

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Start ripping out the old zipper, paying close attention to how it was installed.

You’ll want to make mental notes of each step so that you can insert the new zipper in the same way the old one was put in.

This area at the bottom of the zipper is usually sewn in with a tight zig zag stitch or bar tack stitch. Be careful when removing these stitches as they are sewn in very tightly:

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You can see that the top of this zipper was cut off. There is no problem with that because the top of the zipper will be stitched into the slacks so that the tab can’t come off at the top.

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Next, rip out the area of zipper where the pull tab is now in this photo:

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Notice there is a double row of stitching here.

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This photo below, shows how I’m almost finished ripping out both sides of the zipper:

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Once you have the old zipper removed from the pants, insert the new zipper and begin to pin the left side as shown below:

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Make sure you tuck the top of the zipper between the waistband and the front of the slacks. If it is too long, you can cut it, leaving an inch or so longer than what you need.

Next, I fit the front of the slacks over the pinning I just did, pulling out the pins as you sew. You can line up the zipper with the stitching holes left behind by the old zipper. Stitch right over the same holes where the original zipper was sewn. Use a denim or heavy duty needle, if you have one.

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Continue stitching to the bottom of that section, pulling the top fabric until it meets about 1/8″ from the zipper teeth as you sew. You’ll know when to stop.

Now turn the pants upside down like in the photo below. This just makes it easier to pin the next section.

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Now, flip just the zipper tape on the left side over to the right side, like this below:

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Line up the zipper tape with the old sewing holes on the right side and pin. Stitch it in place, sewing over the old holes, or if you can’t see those, stitch about 1/4″ away from the zipper teeth being careful to remove the pins, but don’t move the zipper tape as you sew.

On the outside, stitch just along the curve edge and stop about 3″ and backstitch to lock in your stitches. See photo below.

If you were to stitch all the way up to the waistband, you would sew the pants shut and you wouldn’t be able to put the slacks on! So, jsut sew about three inches. When you took the old zipper out, you probably noticed how they were done that way originally.

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Once you backstitch and trim off your threads, pull the pants away from your machine and fold under the right side of the zipper, so that the right side doesn’t get caught up in the remainder of your stitching and continue stitching up to the waistband.

I forgot to take a photo of this step, but you can look at the very last photo and see what the stitching line should look like.

At this point, your waistband is still loose and open on each side.

If you have jeans, you can topstitch the waistband on in a matter of seconds.

Notice that on these slacks, the waistband is not topstitched down. Some of you will want to topstitch it because it is fast to do so, but I don’t like the look of a partially topstitched waistband. I like to hand stitch the opening:

 

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Then I stitch in the “ditch” where the two fabrics meet, as in the photo below. I went ahead and stitched it so you can see the stitches out in front of the needle. Those stitches will basically be hidden. You won’t notice them if you stitch as shown below:

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Do the same on both sides of the waistband.

Many times the button is loose even before you start working on the zipper. I like to tighten that up or resew it as a courtesy to the customer.

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There you have it….a new zipper easily installed!

 

 

 

How To Hem Jeans Using The Original Hem

So many of you have wondered how to hem your jeans by using the original rolled hem.

I had never done this before as I hadn’t personally had any customers ask for it.

Until now.

My own daughter asked me to hem hers that way.

So, who better to try a new technique on than my own offspring?

Based on her recommendations, which corresponded to some of your instructions, I hemmed her jeans in no time.

I’ve always written posts based on alterations I have done before.

Some of them I’ve done hundreds of times.

But, this is the first post where I am a rookie.

So, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail with your technique for getting this done.

(Update January 12th: Here is a photo of my daughter’s jeans using two different techniques:

The technique for the leg on the right (Technique #1) is described below.

Ignore the thread bits I forgot to pull off the hem before I shot the photo!

I did the left leg based on instructions that Blankenmom gave us in the comment section and the link which shows us step by step how she does it.

Technique #1

The basic idea is that I am going to cut off the old hem and restitch it farther up the pant leg.

The new seam I make will next to the stitching on the original rolled hem.

Let’s take a look at this technique step by step.

First, I had my daughter try on the jeans.

I folded up the jeans and pinned the denim where she wanted the bottom edge of the hem to be:

Next, I pressed that bottom edge with an iron:

(Yes, you could turn the hem to the inside and press it the other way, but this edge isn’t going to show later, so I eliminated a step by just pressing it as is.)

This pressed edge will be our guide to show us where to stitch the new seamline for the hem.

The next step is to trim off the original hem edge.

I don’t want to cut right next to the rolled hem edge because that wouldn’t give me any seam allowance and I’d have to sew over the big hump of fabric at the hem.

I decided that one inch allowance gave me enough “insurance” and gave the hem enough extra fabric so that the hem doesn’t roll to the outside while wearing the jeans.

So, I cut the jeans like this:

Do you see the extra fabric I have to the right of the scissors?

I cut it far enough away that I can make a seam allowance.

That’s the amount that is crucial to the success of this hem. Make sure you give yourself enough denim.

As I mentioned, I gave it an inch.

This is what it should look like, completely cut away from the jeans:

Next, you’re going to match this “circle of denim” right sides together to the pant leg.

Match up the side seams.

then, pull ithe “circle” down the leg (up the leg?) like this and pin below that pressed fold:

Now, we’re going to make sure it is in the right spot.

Fold up that original rolled hem and peek under the cut edge to make sure the rolled hem edge lines up with the fold that you pressed earlier like this:

Looking at the above photo, the pressed folded edge is lined up with the rolled hem edge. You just can’t see it because the rolled hem is covering it up.

But, it’s there, under my thumbnail.

Everything from the top of my thumb down, will be what the jeans will look like when we’re finished.

Is this making sense?

Ok, holding that rolled hem edge very carefully, so that nothing slips, unfold that rolled hem edge and put a pin in that spot like this:

You’re now going to sew right next to the rolled hem edge like this:

Just make sure you don’t sew over any pins.

Take them out before that happens!

Now. fold the raw edges under to the inside of the jeans.

From the right side of the jeans, the new hem should look like this:

This is what it looks like if you peek inside the jeans:

My raw edges are not finished yet.

I want my daughter to try them on first, before I trim anything or finish the edges.

This is what they look like after I pressed them on the outside:

Ok, now you’ve seen this first technique.

Now jump over to Blankenmom’s website and see how she does it.

My daughter liked her technique better.

I do too.

It seems like the hem will stay down better and not flip up.

It also encases the raw edges, which is another plus.

Thanks again, Blankenmom!

We all learned something new.

Taking in the Waist and Center Back on Denim Pants and Skirts

One of the more common alterations I do is taking in the waist and center back on pants and skirts.

Most people try and solve this problem by just making a dart or two in the back of the pants.

That doesn’t work too well if your pants or skirt is made of thick fabric and has double stitched seams.

This is when this alteration comes in handy and it works on pants and skirts alike.

For this illustration, I have a skirt:

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Pin how much you need to take in and record the amounts along the waist and the center back seam as I did in the second photo of this post.

Or use your favorite method of transferring markings.

This skirt has a belt loop at the center back. With a seam ripper or a pair of small pointed scissors, take off the belt loop, making sure you pay attention to how it is attached because you are going to reattach it in the same way after you make the alteration:

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Remove any tags that are sewn in:

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Open up the horozontal waist seam by about four inches or more (2″ on either side of the center back) with your seam ripper or scissors:

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If there is stitching along the top edge of the waistband, take out about 3 inches of that (1 1/2″ on either side of the center back seam).

Now, this skirt does not have a center back seam. Most pants and jeans don’t either.

If yours doesn’t have a center back seam, don’t worry, we are going to put one in and it won’t show, as I’ll illustrate later.

This skirt needed to be taken in 3/4″ total in the waist. So, that means, I need to take in 3/8″ on both sides of the center back.

I took a ruler and marked the skirt 3/8″ away from the center back (make sure you mark to the left of the center and to the right of the center), one  at the top of the band and one at the bottom of the band:

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See the blue pen mark in the photo above? Well, you probably don’t want to use a blue pen, but I thought you’d be able to see it better than my marking pen.

Make these marks on the outside waistband and the inside waistband because you have to take in both!

Just to clarify, your markings should look like this:

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As you can tell in the photo above, if you don’t have a center back seam, you can draw one with a washable marker, or press it in, or eyeball it.

When you don’t have a center back seam, you are going to create one to take the waistline in. Don’t worry, it will be covered by the belt loop. The best way I’ve found to insure that my seam is hidden under the belt loop, is to sew it to the right (or left) of the actual center back seam that you see double stitched below the waistband. See how it doesn’t line up exactly? That’s what you want. In this case, I moved it over about 1/8″ inch.

To take in the waistband, fold the waistband along the new imaginary seamline, right sides together. (If your garment came with a center back seam, of course you’ll just stitch a line parallel to the seamline.) Match the blue dots to each other and pin them in place:

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Stitch in that new 3/8″ seam:

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Most of the time, I cut the fold and spread the new seam out flat to reduce bulk in the waistband area.

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However, if this is your first time with this alteration, wait and make sure everything is going fit together well before you trim it. If you have taken in a small amount, you may just want to leave it alone and not trim it. It’s up to you.

Now, we’re going to move to the skirt (or pants) for a few minutes, so leave the waistband until later.

Turn the skirt or pants to the underside. You need to take out the topstitching next.

Sometimes, the manufacturer will stitch the topstitching with a chain stitch. These are great because you can grab one thread and pull and the whole seam will come out. Just make sure you don’t pull out more than you meant to!

On this skirt I had one row of chain stitch and one row of regular stitching:

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Take out the topstitching with a seam ripper or scissors.

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Take in the skirt or pants the desired amount, tapering the seam towards the original seam like this:

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Again, I don’t just guess on how much to take in, I have pinned it first and then transferred the markings so I know exactly where to stitch the new seam.

Once you have the new seam stitched, turn the garment to the right side and topstitch the seam just like it was originally:

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In the photo above, you can tell where the old seam was, but don’t worry, that will fade quickly and most people don’t notice it anyway.

Here is where you want to reattach the belt loop.

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Stitch the labels back on:

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Now, topstitch to top of the waistband:

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Stitch the waistband to the skirt (or pants). I usually topstitch this area closed:

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Topstitch the top of the belt loop and then the bottom to hold it in place:

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Here’s a look at the inside:

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This is what it should look like on the outside. It should look the same as before you started, only smaller!

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